News Values • Impact: information has impact if it affects a lot of people • A proposed income tax increase • The accidental killing of a little girl during a shootout between rival drug gangs
Timeliness: information has timeliness if it happened recently, as defined by the publication cycle • For "Newsweek," events that happened during the previous week • For a daily newspaper, however, events that happened during the 24 hours since the last edition of the paper • For CNN Headline News, events that happened during the past half hour
Prominence: information has prominence if it involves a well-known person or organization • If the president of the United States trips and falls • Proximity: information has proximity if it involves something happened somewhere nearby • A bus wreck in India that kills 25 people • A bus wreck in West Lafayette that kills 25 people
Conflict: information has conflict if it involves some kind of disagreement between two or more people • Fights have drama • Good democracy involves more civil conflicts over the nature of public policy • Journalists see themselves as playing an important role in the public debate that forms the basis for democracy
Weirdness: information has weirdness if it involves something unusual or strange. • Charles A. Dana, a famous editor, once said, “If a dog bites a man, that's not news. But if a man bites a dog, that's news!” • Currency: information has currency if it is related to some general topic a lot of people are already talking about • A mugging in downtown Lafayette • If the same mugging occurred a day after a report by the FBI had named Lafayette the city with the state's fastest-growing crime rate, the mugging would be big news.
Six Rules for Writing News Leads • Rule #1: A straight news lead should be: • A single paragraph • A single sentence • Should contain no more than 30 words • Should summarize, at minimum, the most newsworthy "what," "where" and "when" of the story. • Example: "Fire destroyed a house on Main Street early Monday morning.“
Rule #2: The lead's first verb should: • Should express the main “what” of the story • Should be placed among the lead’s first seven words • Example: "Fire destroyed a house on Main Street early Monday morning."
Rule #3: The lead's first verb should be active voice, not passive voice • A verb is active voice if the verb's subject did, is doing, or will do something • A verb is passive voice if the verb's subject had, is having, or will have something done to it • Example: "Fire destroyed a house on Main Street early Monday morning."
Rule #4: If there's a "who" involved in the story, the lead should give some indication of who the "who" is • First example: "An elderly Lafayette man died Monday when an early morning fire raged through his Main Street home." • Second example: “Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarskidied Monday when an early morning fire raged through his Main Street home."
Rule #5: The lead should summarize the "why" and "how" of the story, but only if there's room. • Example: "An elderly Lafayette man died early Monday morning when fire sparked by faulty wiring raged through his Main Street home.“
Rule #6: If what's in the lead needs to be attributed, place the attribution at the end of the lead • Example: "Faulty wiring most likely sparked the blaze that claimed the life of an elderly Lafayette man last week, the city's arson investigator concluded Monday."
Lead Tips • Leads must be complete sentences, including articles. No headline or broadcast style • It's not, "Two killed in auto accident." • It's "Two people were killed in an auto accident." • Always include the day of the week, but never lead with the day of the week: • NOT: "On Monday, the City …” • Use the day of the week, NEVER use "today," "tomorrow" etc. • Never put an unfamiliar name in the lead (blind lead). • Instead, use another identifier, such as "A Lafayette man"
Include something that sets this story apart • If it is a car fatality, for instance, what separates this car fatal from dozens of others each week? • Remember your audience • Who is reading this? Why do they care? • Leads to avoid: • Question leads (in most cases) • Quote leads • “Met" and "spoke" or "spoke about" leads